Maybe we need a big-time state ethics commission. I remain among the skeptics. But we damn well need a commission at the highest level and with a strong budget and with subpoena powers, to take a comprehensive look at the Big Dig. Today’s Boston Globe story about a looming half-billion dollar obligation highlights once again that we have had only glimpses of the Big Dig’s big problems.
Investigations have thus far been sporadic, reactive and incremental. Tom Reilly became AG in 1999 and waited until 2004 to get serious about Big Dig cost overruns. The commission chaired by retired judge Edward Ginsberg was a study in ineptitude, spending over $7 million to recover about $4 million. The frantic probes following the July, 2006 ceiling collapse focused on only parts of the construction problems.
This should be an issue that progressives and conservatives can get together on. The crazy-quilt financing of this project (with credit default swaps, no less) will shadow the state’s fiscal situation for another generation. Its continuing maintenance expenses are a series of financial time-bombs. We are at least owed a credible explanation of how this happened.